I’m really sorry this has taken so long to write but with a new lockdown I’ve been able to put some serious work into this next part. I actually had an entirely different ending mapped out but it seems as if my two main characters had other ideas and went out and I just followed on behind. However, that being said, there will be a fourth part and maybe more, and for the first time in awhile I have no idea how this turns out.
Author’s note: Warbie is a shortened version of Warburton, a small town to the east of Melbourne, best known for its relaxed atmosphere, starry eyed tree huggers, loggers and for good measure, Seventh Day Adventists.
The DPP is the Department of Public Prosecutions.
Anna parked her car in front of the house and looked up in the rear view mirror as Sergeant Angie Dickson got out of the car. She’d been taken back to collect her car and told to drive back to Coldstream whilst the two detectives followed her at a discreet distance. She stared at the police tapes on the door and then swallowed as she thought of her encounter with Steele.
How was I supposed to know he was bent?
She opened the door and looked down at the gravel driveway.
Because you’re not from that world, only Ellen could have noticed the clues.
Angie and her partner, Senior Detective Tom Harris moved into her point of view. Harris opened the boot to retrieve something and she was temporarily distracted by the sight of his arse. He had a cute one but then she recalled the wedding ring on his finger and switched instead to Angie. In her prior meetings she’d noticed that she was a similar age to Gitti but she hadn’t paid much attention to her looks but that was because she was being officially interviewed. Today however, she was feeling a little more relaxed and she noted that Angie’s fair hair hung loosely about her. Normally she tied it up into a bun or a ponytail. She was dressed casually in a short-sleeved cream blouse tucked into black jeans, which accentuated her figure a little more than the business suits she’d worn.
Anna felt a slight twinge, almost as if she was standing outside her body, watching herself watching Angie. The older woman was studying the front of the house with a look of intense concentration and Anna’s eyes fell to her breasts and then her crotch, noticing the creasing where her legs met her hips. Almost as if sensing her attention, Angie met her gaze and smiled crookedly.
“When you’re ready we’ll go inside.”
“Of course,” Anna came to herself with a start and unlocked the flywire door and main door, the smells that greeted her nostrils were vaguely familiar. She couldn’t name them, but they had been present when the forensics team were dusting the place for prints and running tests.
“Okay,” Angie followed her inside, “it’s five o’clock and you said seven thirty?”
“So that gives us a slight window. We’ve obviously missed something in the last search because there’s no way he would have been sent out here.”
“What do you mean missed something?”
“We suspect he’s holding out on us. We’ve got him on possession of unregistered guns and a small quantity of cocaine. The DPP might even throw the drug charges out because it’s a small amount, and the firearms charges might even see a non custodial sentence depending on his circumstances and the fact it’s a first offence,” she tucked her shirt in at the back.
“And Steele isn’t on this case, he’s in another division altogether so he’s got no business poking around this particular crime scene and as I mentioned earlier, he’s got connections to McNally, they were partners when McNally was still on the force.”
“He seemed so genuine,” she swallowed as she looked away from Angie, “it was only Ellen who suspected there was something going on.”
“She’s from a different world than you,” Angie took off her jacket, “she’s naturally suspicious of the police anyway, and she knows enough about police procedures to know that we don’t work alone. You probably only see cops working alone on the telly,” she draped the jacket over the back of the couch and took the phone out of the pocket.
“In real life we’re trained to put people at ease, it’s par for the course.”
“I understand,” Anna nodded and stared at the couch, “and you’re right, I only see cops on telly, even the real ones are just answering questions or making statements.”
“I don’t like watching cop shows, my kids on the other hand,” she slipped the phone into her back pocket, “are obsessed with them.”
“You have kids?” Anna blushed as the words slipped out.
“Two, Aiden is eight and Julie is six, they’re at their father’s joint for the weekend.”
Anna opened her mouth to say something else as she glanced at her hands. There was no wedding ring and then Angie spoke again.
“All right, here’s where we stand right now. We suspect there’s more to this but we can’t prove it,” she stepped back, “a search can be conducted on several levels, depending on the seriousness of the charges. We really just conducted a basic search but we didn’t istanbul escort knock holes in walls, because if we don’t find what we’re looking for then it jumps up to bite us on the arse.”
Anna looked past her as Angie continued.
“Speaking of knocking holes in walls. Has your husband or a contractor done any renovations to the house in the last couple of years? I noticed that some of the roof tiles in the front have been replaced recently.”
“We had a leak about here,” she looked up at the ceiling, “some of the roof tiles were cracked and two years ago we had a climate control system installed.”
“We noticed that the last time we were here,” she replied, “anything else?”
“Um, there was the back verandah,” she frowned, “and a new kitchen, about six months ago.”
“Okay, let’s start with the kitchen, our people checked the back verandah.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Just sit on the couch and try to think of anything unusual that might have happened in the last year or so, a sudden emergency that entailed repairing, contractors working around the place. It might seem like nothing but you’ve no idea how many times something that seems like nothing turns out to be the key that unlocks an entire case.”
Anna nodded and sat on the couch whilst Tom went back out to the car. He returned a few minutes later with a toolbox and headed straight into the kitchen whilst Angie inspected the rest of the house. Anna sat there for the next half an hour listening to Tom taking back panels out of kitchen cupboards and Angie knocking on walls. At some point she even went up into the ceiling cavity and Anna looked up as she heard the creak of footsteps on the joists. Eventually however she stepped into the kitchen, half expecting to find it dismantled but Tom was putting a panel back.
“Nope, just insulation and a few washers and screws.”
“I’m still thinking,” she leaned against the bench.
“If it’s any help,” he glanced up, “try to empty your mind, go and do something else and it might just pop into your mind.”
“Good theory,” she smirked, “but I’m afraid all I can think of is emptying my bladder.”
“So, go do it, we’re not expecting you to suddenly remember something, this is what we do for a job every day.”
As Anna stepped into the toilet she heard Angie coming back down the ladder, but it was whilst she flushed the toilet some three minutes later that she recalled an incident from six months ago. Anna stared at the cistern and recalled the time he’d had the lid off to adjust the flushing mechanism. She touched the cistern again. She’d come into the toilet to answer a call of nature only to find Ritchie fiddling with the flushing mechanism. He’d asked her to wait outside while he finished but since then he’d developed an obsession with it, constantly lifting the lid to check it.
Why? Didn’t he fix it? Or was there another reason?
She turned to the door and a moment later turned the handle.
It’s probably nothing but even so.
Angie turned around as Anna stepped into the kitchen.
“Find anything yet?”
“Nope,” Angie folded her arms, “but I’ve always got the option of getting a few more people in to help out but without some kind of evidence we can’t justify an invasive search.”
“What’s an invasive search?”
“That’s when we knock holes in walls and start pulling back carpets.”
“Oh,” she glanced over her shoulder, “look, it’s probably nothing but,” she turned back.
“I remembered something when I was flushing the toilet.”
“Uh huh, what?”
“About six months ago our toilet stopped working, there was something wrong with the flusher. I came home from work to find Ritchie fiddling with it. I thought it strange at the time because it was working fine but he insisted it wasn’t working right and ever since then he’s done his fortnightly checkup, just to make sure it’s working.”
“So, why not buy a new flushing mechanism?” Angie asked, “it’s what normal people do.”
“I said that but he said there’s no point buying a new one when the old one still works, something about it being such an old toilet and he wasn’t sure a new flusher would work. We’d have to buy a new toilet instead, he was saving us money.”
“Now that’s a new one,” Tom pulled a wry grin, “it’s the same brand as our toilet at home so unless there’s some radically different flusher inside then he’s probably telling porkies.”
“Let’s take a look,” Angie inclined her head, “you might think it’s nothing but it sounds suspect all the same.”
Some five minutes later she’d removed the cistern lid and was peering at the flusher.
“It looks new,” Anna murmured, “although I’m not an expert on cisterns.”
“Wow,” Angie dipped her hand into the water and a moment later held up a key on a keyring. The tab had a number on one side and a company name on the other.
“It’s a storage company,” Dickson examined it, “do you know anything about it?”
“No, why would we want to hire storage? We’ve got two ataköy escort sheds and a garage and his parents own a farm out past Warbie, they’ve got two huge sheds there and he stores stuff in them.”
“This company hires out small lockable sheds,” Angie stepped into the hallway, “and not so long ago we raided one and found a nice little stash of precursor chemicals for making ecstasy.”
“I only remembered when I flushed the toilet, and because you were searching my house,” Anna stared at the cistern and then followed her through to the kitchen.
Senior Detective Tom Harris stood up suddenly when she dangled the key in the air.
“My god, is that what I think it is?”
“Hidden in the cistern.”
“Where no one would think to look,” he grimaced.
“So, what happens now?” Anna looked at her.
“Wait in the living room, please,” Angie nodded at the door, “and don’t text anyone,” she stared at her and Anna took the phone out of her back pocket.
“Here,” she put it on the bench, “I’ll leave it here.”
“You don’t have to,” Angie murmured but Anna turned on her heel and walked out.
She didn’t have to wait long however, Angie came back into the living room with her phone some five minutes later.
“We need you to send a text to Tom Steele, tell him you’re on your way and will be here in forty five minutes or so,” she sat down opposite her, “you’ll have to leave the phone here with me and we’ll have you taken back home. I’ll drop the phone off once we’ve picked up Steele, we’re going to wait here and ask him to accompany us back to the station.”
“And if he refuses?”
“It’s not an offer you can refuse,” she smiled crookedly, “but I doubt he’ll want to to be marched into the police station in handcuffs.”
“It’s not exactly written on the brochure,” Tom grinned.
“What do I write?” Anna picked up her phone.
“Make it sound matter of fact. It’s okay to appear worried but let him know you’re only going to be here for about an hour at the most. Make up some excuse about needing to get an early night but keep it brief. I’ll have the phone here so if he texts then I’ll have to be you, make sure and write down your access code before you leave.”
She tapped out a text and then showed it to Angie, the detective nodded at her.
“Perfect, just send it.”
“Okay,” she sat down again.
After she’d sent the text and written down her code, Angie rose and led her outside. A police car arrived some ten minutes later and Angie farewelled her.
“Try not to worry, it’s out of your hands and this is what we do for a job.”
“Good luck,” Anna farewelled her and then stepped over to the police car as a uniformed constable opened the rear door. Some five minutes later she was on her way home feeling almost naked without her phone and more than a little paranoid.
“Try not to worry, I’ll have your phone back as soon as possible.”
“Easy enough for you to say,” she sighed, “I can’t imagine what’s in that storage shed.”
“We’ll get to the bottom of it, but I suspect that Steele at least knows where it is, he would have used an excuse to use the toilet and retrieved the key. He’d have asked you a few random questions and then left. At this stage he probably doesn’t suspect you’ve phoned me.”
What the fuck is in that storage shed?
Little did she know that the key would unlock more than a storage shed.
Despite her worries though, everything at home seemed ridiculously normal. Gitti had mowed the lawn and was now watering her flowerbeds, Tabitha was playing with a basketball and Ellen had set up a table on her front porch for a ceramic statuette that she was now painting. Anna propped her arms on the rail of the back verandah and regarded the scene with a distinct feeling of detachment. It was as if she wasn’t really there and then Tabitha ran up to her.
“Do you want to play with me?”
“Of course,” she made her way down the steps. The basketball ring was attached to the front of the verandah and as she glanced over her shoulder at Ellen the other woman looked up and offered her a wry smile.
“What did the police say?”
“Um, nothing, they don’t know much right now.”
However she did confide in Ellen and Gitti about an hour later as Tabitha finally went inside for a shower. Both women listened to her account but it was Gitti’s advice that made the most sense.
“Get yourself a new phone, I’ve got a couple of old Samsungs, one’s only a couple of years old and the other is still pretty good. We can transfer your contacts and other data to another phone and then just turn the other one off.”
“I should just change my number but it means buying out the contract and getting a new phone.”
“Let me talk to Angie later,” Gitti replied, “there’ll be some financial compensation if you inform on your ex husband. Trust me, they need your cooperation.”
“Thanks, funnily enough, I was going to switch from an iPhone anyway but I was going to wait till the contract ran out.”
“Well, even if avcılar escort the cops can’t fix you up, I can help you out,” Ellen broke in.
“You see?” Gitti smiled crookedly, “you’re in good hands.”
Angie and Tom dropped in some time later and whilst she didn’t give much away, she did state that Senior Sergeant Tom Steele had been taken back to the station to answer some questions. She then recorded an interview with Anna and then interviewed Ellen. It was Gitti however who came out with the most intriguing comment once they’d left.
“This was the break they were waiting for, you’ll see it all on the news tomorrow night,” she took the reheated meal out of the microwave.
“I’ll get that spare phone for you while you eat dinner.”
The ‘new’ phone took the better part of an hour to set up and by then Ellen and Tabitha had gone to the bungalow leaving her to acclimatise herself to a new phone and that took the rest of the night and as she settled into bed she sent Ellen a text from her new phone.
Anna: My new number.
Ellen: Welcome to Samsung!
The video that accompanied the text showed a teddy bear snuggling into bed.
It wasn’t the first time she’d thought about lying next to Ellen in bed and this time she actually let the image remain at the fringes of her mind until finally exhaustion overcame her.
Anna wasn’t the only one wrestling with her feelings. Ellen was also laying things out in her head and for the first time in months found herself questioning her relationship with Dee. Why was she with a married woman who not only refused to divorce her husband, but also had other lovers who she refused to let go. It had seemed more than a little weird at the time but now that she’d turned her attention to Anna she found herself ruminating over the whys and wherefores. Was it safety or just mere convenience? Or was it something else? There was no commitment to Dee, if she suddenly made a decision to get involved with another woman then Dee would wish her well and just move on, she might even find another lover to replace her.
There were no answers that night nor the next day but by Monday night the situation had taken on a new twist when police opened the storage shed and found a rather large supply of guns, mostly semi automatic weapons. Anna had been concerned that she or her ex husband might be named, but Gitti had reassured her that the police weren’t about to name either of them.
“They’ll be using this information to put pressure on your ex husband, if he agrees to testify then they might give him immunity and a new identity and if that’s the case you’ll never hear from him again.”
Which brought up another problem and one that Ellen was reluctant to weigh in on, the house. It was obvious that Anna did have an attachment to the residence in Coldstream and it wasn’t hard to understand why. It had quite a bit of land around it, a perfect rural retreat that was still quite close to Lilydale and Chirnside Park.
“But there’s always the chance that one of Roy’s mates might drop in looking for Ritchie and that’s a chance I don’t want to take,” she propped on her elbows and looked down at herself.
“But here I have my own bedroom, I’ve got company and yet I’ve still got some privacy.”
“Except when you invite someone into your bedroom,” Ellen swivelled to look at her, “
“Yeah,” she smirked and looked past her at the door, “it’s starting to feel like my bedroom as well but I’m mindful of the fact this is someone else’s house.”
“Has Gitti said something about it?”
“No, that’s just it,” she stared at the ceiling, “I’ve felt welcomed and even appreciated here, she’s so easygoing it’s almost obscene, I’m the one who feels guilty for imposing.”
“I felt the same way at first, it took nearly a year before I finally got used to the fact that she wasn’t going to push me out the door, metaphorically speaking.”
“Does she have a partner?”
“She’s had a guy she sees once a month or so, he lives interstate but they’re not exclusive to each other, kind of like me.”
“Ah, so,” she reached over and pushed her knee, “so, that’s where you take your lead from?”
“You could have a point there although she’s never said that Terry has other girlfriends and to be honest I think they’re probably friends with benefits but don’t quote me on that.”
“I won’t,” she locked a hand behind her head, “can I ask you something?”
“Kym has asked me out to dinner at her joint.”
“Uh huh,” her eyes shifted, “and?”
“And I get the feeling that it’s more than dinner but it’s hard to tell. We’ve talked on the phone a few times and I get the feeling she’s interested but then I think she’s just being supportive.”
“So, how do you feel about her?”
“That’s what I’m trying to work out,” she replied, “I like her a lot but that’s because she’s an older woman who’s been through two marriages and here’s me just ending my first one.”
“I hate to state the obvious,” Ellen smiled crookedly, “but it takes time to adjust to being married and it takes time to adjust to being single again, some people take longer than others. For me though it was a bit easier because there was violence and I had to think of Tab, being a mother to her helped to shield me from some of the emotional upheaval.”